Darma Diaz Last Candidate Standing After Court Ruling

darma v diaz
Darma V. Diaz

Democratic District Leader and candidate for the special city council election Darma Diaz will not have a special election after all on June 23 to fill the 37th City Council District Seat vacated when former City Council Member Rafael Espinal Jr. stepped down in January.

That after State Appellate Court today unanimously overruled a State Supreme Court decision to reinstate candidates Kim Council and Misba Abdiin on the ballot after the city’s Board of Elections ruled they did nit have the required amount of signatures to get on the ballot.

Female Democratic District Leader and City Council candidate Darma Diaz.

The legal brouhaha stemmed from the interpretation from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’executive order last month, which suspended the petitioning process to get on the ballot for health and safety reasons due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The order allowed those seeking to run for the seat to get 30 percent less of the mandated signatures to get on the ballot. However, the provision that Cuomo sites in his order,  Section 6-136, had an antiquated number of signatures, 900, needed to get on the ballot. Thirty percent of 900 is 270.

The anomaly lies in that the City Charter was revised before the 2013 city elections in that it required only 450 good signatures to run for the city council.  Thirty percent of the 450 is 135.

Both Council and Abdin met the 135 signature threshold but had considerably less than the 270 signature threshold. Diaz was the only candidate that not exceeded the 270 signature threshold, but exceeded well over the 900 signature threshold.

Nonetheless, Attorney Howard Graubard successfully argued in the State Supreme Court that although Cuomo specifically cited Section 6-136 in suspending the petitioning process, this wasn’t his intent.

But the law firm Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Formato Ferrara Wolf & Carone Law successfully argued on the Appellate Court level that assuming Cuomo’s intent didn’t hold much legal weight.

“There is no evidence that the Governor intended to alter the New York City Charter’s threshold of 450 signatures as opposed to the Election Law statutory threshold of 900. Given that the Governor specifically referred to the Election Law threshold as providing the relevant baseline to reduce the number of signatures in Executive Order No. 202.2, to the extent that there may be any conflict by application of a different threshold baseline set forth in the New York City Charter, Executive Order (Cuomo) No. 202.3 (9 NYCRR 8.202.3) would warrant suspension of the contrary New York City Charter provision,” the Appellate Court Divivison wrote in their ruling.

“Thus, the petitioner was required to meet a threshold of 30% of 900 signatures, or a minimum of 270 signatures, which is still a significant reduction of the 450 threshold set forth in New York City Charter § 1057-b. Since the petitioner did not meet this threshold, the order of the Supreme Court must be reversed.”

Diaz declared the court ruling a victory for the constituents of New York City’s 37th Council District.

“I want to thank everyone on our campaign for their support during this difficult process. At the end of the
day you were the winner because our courts ruled that your voice mattered. This election isn’t over yet, not by far. There’s a general election this fall and I promise to work hard to earn your vote this November as the democratic nominee,” said Diaz.

“In the meantime, I will continue my work as a community advocate and reach out to those that are struggling during these difficult times. If you have some time or resources to spare, please let me know. Social distancing and other preventive measures are working but we have a long way to go, and there are many families to feed and assist. We can use all the help we can get. Be well and be safe.”

Council said on Twitter she will appeal the decision.

The district covers Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, Bushwick, Crown Heights, Cypress Hills, and East New York.